A group of Caribbean charities have formed a coalition of solidarity with Cuba, aimed at fostering closer ties and provide humanitarian assistance as the Communist-run nation battles a 60-year-long economic blockade led by its closest neighbour, the United States.
The Caribbean Network for Solidarity with Cuba, a regional group of non-governmental organisations that was launched in a press briefing this week said it intends to lobby the US to lift the trade embargo imposed in 1961 after socialist leader Fidel Castro came to power in 1959.
David Denny of the Cuban Barbadian Friendship Association, one of the network’s co-founders delivered a blunt message of the challenges the Spanish-speaking Caribbean state faces that will require help from the regional NGO community.
He said: “What Cuba is going through presently at the hands of the United States and the European Union is nothing short of genocide, and it is important that we in the Caribbean show some solidarity and assist Cuba in every way we can.”
Another co-founder, Shaun Hutchinson of Trinidad and Tobago Friends of Cuba, said: “Like everywhere else in the world, Cuba is presently battling the COVID-19 pandemic, but the 60-year-old United States trade embargo against that country has made it even more challenging since owing to the embargo, it cannot secure the medical supplies it needs for that purpose.”
Hutchinson noted that while it seemed as though the US was close to lifting the embargo when then President Barack Obama opened an embassy in Havana and lifted some travel restrictions in 2014, his successor, Donald Trump, had reversed all those gains and introduced 243 more sanctions which have yet to be lifted by President Joe Biden.
The network said it has shipped syringes and other medical equipment to Cuba, not only to assist them but also as an act of gratitude for all the assistance Cuba has provided to the region, and indeed Africa, over the years, in health care services.
Marlene Alexander of St. Lucia’s Humanistic Solidarity Association said: “Cuba has provided us with over 800 scholarships, with a graduation rate of nearly 90 per cent, and over 20,000 St. Lucians have gone to Cuba for eye surgery over the years.”
She also noted that despite the embargo, Cuba is still providing medical services to countries in need during the pandemic and has also developed its own vaccine, “which the World Health Organisation has recognised and reports that it has had a 94 per cent success rate thus far”.
Hutchinson noted that in June, Jamaica collected and delivered medical supplies to Santiago de Cuba and is currently preparing to send a second batch of items, and Grenada has appointed a Cabinet committee to ascertain how best it can provide material assistance to Cuba.
Denny told journalists: “So far, we have several people and countries on board, including Barbados, St. Lucia, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, St. Vincent, Curacao, Grenada and Venezuela, and we also have individuals in Canada and the United States sympathetic to our cause.
“We also want to get the French, Dutch and Spanish speaking Caribbean countries on board to build a level of consciousness and understanding. Another issue we must address apart from the embargo is the continued presence of the United States military at Guantanamo Bay, so we need to put pressure on the US government to return that to the Cuban people as well.” (DH)